By Tibby Rothman
What can $1 a year get a billionaire in Los Angeles these days?
Evidently, a property worth $7.7 million. According to a document obtained by the L.A. Weekly, that's the value of the prime downtown square footage near Disney Concert Hall that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others are secretly negotiating to rent for 99 years, nearly for free, to Broad for his foundation offices and an attached, but much smaller, art museum.
Here's the truth, even though it's often unmentioned in media coverage of this touchy issue:
The roughly two acres of land is owned by city taxpayers (not by the county, as Los Angeles media have wrongly reported). But it took a request from county officials — not the City Council or Villaraigosa — to find out how much the land is really worth.
The $7.7 million valuation was determined by Ronald L. Buss, of Buss-Shelger Associates, a real estate consultant who reported his findings to Los Angeles County CEO William T. Fujioka in a letter on May 6.
So far Villaraigosa has made no effort to find out if 4 million Los Angeles residents want to
fork over a $7.7 million piece of their land to Eli Broad.
Moreover, local media including the Los Angeles Times have continued to vastly underplay — or even leave out entirely — the fact that the public land to be handed over to Broad will mostly be used for his private foundation's new offices and other non-public space — not for the much smaller space set aside for the art museum.
The pricey parcel across the street from MOCA is part of the long-stalled Grand
Avenue luxury hotel-and-condo project, envisioned on several plots of connected
land owned variously by city and county taxpayers. L.A. County holds a share in Grand Avenue's revenue and thus Fujioka and county officials are interested in its worth.
Proponents have praised the plan to display Broad's top-notch art collection on public land, saying it will generate interest in downtown Los Angeles and draw tourists. Opponents call it a giveaway to a billionaire during a recession.
In his letter to Fujioka, Buss notes that Related Companies, the developer of the troubled Grand Avenue project, would benefit financially from a Broad museum, and the high-end condos the developer envisions could command an even higher price. “Related is in
favor of museum; it will help pricing of condominium units; will probably use facility to define project–'Museum Towers,'” Buss states in his report to Fujioka.